Meat is Mixing Things Up

“Meat and potatoes.”

What do you think of when you read that? It used to mean dinner: a big plate of red meat with mashed potatoes beside it and gravy poured all over it. Yummm!  In today’s world the saying has taken on a slightly different meaning.  It seems to be more about being “down-to-earth” or fundamentally basic, e.g. “He’s such a ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of guy.”

Dinner is no longer what comes to mind when people hear that phrase, and Midan recently uncovered one of the key reasons why.

Through our Protein and the Plate research (conducted jointly with Meatingplace and sponsored by Yerecic Label), we learned that up until 2014, annual eatings per capita where meat was at the center of the plate covered around 45 and annual eatings per capita where meat was an ingredient hung out at around 43 eatings. In 2014, these numbers switched places. For the first time, the long-standing practice of a juicy hunk of meat owning the center of the plate and anchoring the meal was replaced with that meat being cut up – chunked, diced, sliced or ground – and combined with other ingredients before being served up on dinner plates.

This is HUGE! See for yourself.

Although we in the meat industry pride ourselves on selling big hunks of meat to consumers, we must understand that while our target audience may still buy those hunks, there has been a seismic shift in meat usage. This comes as a result of increased beef prices and the unfortunate but common perception that preparing meat can be difficult and time-consuming. For many consumers, the answer to these challenges has been to cut back on the amount being purchased and serve it in a taco shell with lettuce and salsa. Boom!  Easy, quick and more affordable.

In addition to tacos, other popular ways consumers have incorporated meat as an ingredient are in pasta, soups/stews, burgers/sandwiches, burritos, casseroles,  stir fry…and the list goes on and on…

So rather than pushing consumers back to the days of rolling up sleeves and pulling a hefty roast out of the oven (because, quite frankly, they don’t want to), the meat industry must embrace this shift. Here are four things we need to do:

  1. Innovative Products

Go beyond stew meat and prepared kabobs and think of new products that can be used as ingredients. Look at how consumers are using different cuts of meat and make them recipe-ready. Convenience is key, so find ways to save time for the meal preparer.

  1. Innovative Packaging

Explore new ways to package fresh meat for multiple cooking methods, whether for the grill, slow cooker, stovetop, etc. and figure out how to cut whole muscle into smaller cuts for center of the plate and ingredient use. We have got to offer individual and smaller portions because that is what consumers want.

  1. Different Merchandising

It’s time to ramp up the integration of education into promotion. It’s time to connect the dots for the customers shopping at the meat case by providing meat in the most common weights needed for recipes and in the form those recipes call for. It is time to push the departmental barriers of merchandising aside and truly cross-merchandise with products that are likely to be used in meat -as-an-ingredient meals:  noodles for casseroles, lettuce for salads, tortilla shells for tacos.

  1. Broad Messaging

The days of telling the meat story just at the meat case are over. We have to collectively work to inform/educate consumers on the value of meat in their diets before they walk in the store. Meat companies have to be social! So get active on the social sphere and target your key customers where they are. It always comes back to catering to the consumer!!

 If we want to keep fresh meat on the plate, the meat industry must embrace the new meaning of “meat and potatoes” and provide consumers with the fundamentally basic options they are seeking at the meat case.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – please share your comments below!

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